Motherhood and Trauma on Surgery

When I was on my surgery rotation, there was one day that was particularly rough. It was a Saturday and I was on call by myself, without any classmates. I saw more gruesome and horrifying things in that one day than I could ever imagine. It was a day that permanently broke something inside of me. There is no going back after a day like that. One of my attending surgeons even came up to me later to say how well I handled those situations (totally a lie, but pretty awesome coming from a surgeon 😂). This is why all doctors are wounded healers. 

After being awake for 30+ hours on that call day, I went home hoping to crash in my comfortable bed and try my hardest to forget everything I’d seen and done. As soon as I stepped in the door of home, I hear, “Mommy?” Coming from my daughter’s room. I was spent. I had nothing left to give mentally, emotionally,… just nothing. I felt sub-human. Still in my scrubs, shoes discarded at the door, I walk into my daughter’s room to her smiling face, chanting “Mommy!” While jumping in her crib. My sunshine, happy to see me. 

A year and a half later and I’m finally sharing a piece I wrote that day. Writing it helped me deal with some of the residual effects that I still feel. 

Med Student Mom

Matched!

The first time I ever went to a Match Day, I thought it was a special kind of wonderful. A huge room absolutely packed with family and friends, medical students jumping for joy with their envelopes telling them where they were going for their training… it was so much fun.

And it wasn’t even MY DAY. It was just so fun seeing everyone else so happy.

And yet, I was unbelievably sad. Three failed applications to medical school and I had just about given up. I’m sure any sane person would have.

But, I am stubborn, and I am just different. I remember telling David once that I didn’t know if I would ever truly be happy, working as a scientist but regretting never going to medical school. I’m pretty sure even he, my biggest supporter, thought I had lost my damn mind when I said that. Maybe I was just being dramatic, but at the time I was working a job that I absolutely hated, due to circumstances beyond my control. Attending that Match Day filled me with a newfound optimism. I’ve got to try just one more time. Whatever the outcome, then I will be done and I will move on. Just one more time.

Now, almost 5 years later, and my Match Day is this Friday. Today I got this email:

I started a new rotation today, and we were busy seeing patients when I heard a very faint ding! in my pocket. And I just knew, That’s it. That’s gotta be the email. As soon as I had a split second to check, all I saw was, “Congr–“ on the subject line.

And now my Facebook and Instagram feeds are all filled with the same picture from friends in med schools across the country, and I am so happy for everyone. We are almost at the finish line for this leg of the race.

So, so happy. I get a Match Day, I get to have a residency position to start the process of being a pediatrician. I am so overwhelmingly relieved. The constant stress of medical school has all been in the hopes of landing a residency.

First and second year: Make good grades and pass Step 1 so I can land a residency.

Third year: Make good grades and get good letters so I can land a residency

Fourth year, early on: Pass Step 2 and put together a great app so I can land a residency.

Fourth year, after interviewing: Please let me Match into a residency! Did I put programs in the right order to Match? Did I rank enough programs? Will I actually get to be a resident?

It almost makes me wonder if Match Day will be anti-climatic. Thank goodness that’s all over???

All of that aside, I am so relieved. In four days we will have an answer and can start looking for a house. I’m ready. I’m so ready. I’m not ready. But I’m ready. There will always be so much I don’t know, but I am finally almost there. PagingDrAllie, pediatric resident physician.

A dream, ever so close to becoming true.

 

129 Days


Today I was reminded that even though I’ve learned so much in med school, there is still SO MUCH I don’t know and need to learn, practice and repeat. The answers don’t always come from textbooks. I am so thankful that as an intern, there will still be several layers of supervision as I learn to navigate the responsibility of making medical decisions. 129 days! Tonight’s agenda, though, is learning about QI & peds EKGs as well as reviewing some articles & brushing up on sedation meds. (And NO, I’m not hardcore studying for Step 3 yet, but I ALWAYS keep reading material & a To Do list on me!)

On a separate note, my ROL (rank order list, the list of my preferred residency programs in the order of my preference) is certified and will be locked in tomorrow night at 9pm. Match Day is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY and I am so excited. I just want to KNOW already. I’m itching to start the house hunting, moving, moving on with my life, etc!

Pediatric Pathology 

For the past two weeks I’ve been on a pediatric pathology rotation.


I had no idea just how much I have forgotten about histology slides since the first semester of med school.

Simple, cuboidal, squamous, stratified. Ciliated. Eosinophils, neutrophils, H&E stain. So much specific terminology, ways of describing the sectioned specimens under the microscope.

The first thing I did on my first day was look at slides of placental tissue. Then I realized… I have no clue what exactly it is that I am looking at, or even looking for. 😦 

The umbilical cord sections were easy. Normal three vessel (one vein, two arteries) and even one two vessel (one artery) cord. That much I knew. But the other slides?? Totally no clue. That’s when I realized that in histo and path in first and second years that I’ve never actually looked at placental tissue before.

It’s been pretty cool so far, being on pathology. I’ve gotten to section placentas by myself, evaluate kidney biopsy samples, perform an autopsy, and went to neonatology M&Ms. There is so much to learn in medicine, there’s no wonder they make us pick a specialty because there is no way to know everything.

The End of Interview Season!

After 15,000 miles, 6 vehicles, 4 flights, 4 new states, and 6 audiobooks, I am finally DONE interviewing for residency! How fitting that I wrapped up my season in the same place where I wrote my personal statement last summer. I have met so many incredible people over the last three months, and I feel so incredibly blessed to call this field mine and get to work this summer. Now… how to come up with a Rank Order List when I LOVE my top 8 programs?! 

Interview Season in Pictures

The best year of medical school is the year you are accepted. The second best year is 4th year. Or so I was told four years ago. =)

Somehow it is already Christmas Break of my 4th year of medical school and in less than 5 months people will start calling me “Doctor” and I’m actually going to know how to do stuff and know things. It’s pretty unbelievable that after so many years of wanting to go to medical school and going through the process of applying to medical school four times and thinking it would never happen for me…. I am actually almost done. It doesn’t quite feel real.

I am very happy to report that the nightmares I was having back over the summer, before the ERAS residency application opened, were completely unfounded. I have more interviews than I know what to do with and the odds are in my favor that I will actually Match in March and will have my first job as a physician come next June/July. It’s been an incredible experience, if not time-consuming, alienating, and exhausting, but a necessary evil in the long run. I have met so many incredible people in the field of Pediatrics, and I feel so lucky to be going into the best specialty! (I may be a bit biased 😉 and I’m sure all of my colleagues in other fields feel the same way about their specialty.) I can’t wait to get started on my career but at the same time, I wish this year would slow down.

Over the past several months, my Instagram feed (@PagingDrAllie) has been flooded with snapshots of the interview trail. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m going to new states, new cities, new places all by myself for nearly three months?

I purposefully do not share where I am interviewing. Not only for anonymity (which really, in having this blog, I’m probably not doing a very good job about that anyway), but I feel that sharing and bragging about those sorts of things is just in bad taste. A program that I am not thrilled with may be a friend’s top choice and they may not have received an interview invitation…. and I’m not the type of person who relishes in others’ despair. Below I’ve gathered some of my Instagram shots from my travels, with captions. I hope you enjoy a small taste of my life living out of a rental car!

One of the unexpected bonuses of traveling so much in November/December: all of the hotels and hospitals are wonderfully decorated for Christmas (and Hanakkuh, and others), which delights my soul in a particularly special way. There’s just something about twinkle lights that makes me deliciously happy.

 

This has been my view for so long that anything else almost seems foreign. After awhile, all of the hotels just blur together. There have been a couple that have really wow’d me in terms of the bedding. As a mom of a two-year-old, having a full night’s sleep, alone, without interruptions (or being kicked in the face) is a luxury beyond belief. Even so….. I do miss my own bed at home. Once I’m actually working, maybe we can investigate investing in a bigger bed that is as comfortable as this one was!

 

The bad thing about racing home, while driving alone, is that when you’re driving into a beautiful sunset, there is no one to share the experience with. Which means you pull over onto a safe pullout/shoulder and snap a few quick shots before getting back behind the wheel and trying to make up for those minutes.

I spent a week and a half in a new state to interview at several programs, thinking that would be best for my rental car and time. What I didn’t anticipate when I scheduled those interviews was how much I’d already be missing home and my kiddo, even that early in the interview season. So the Handsome came up with a brilliant scheme: instead of coming all the way home, I’d meet him and the Ladybug at the halfway point between home and the next interview to spend a weekend doing things she’d love like swimming in a heated pool and an excursion to the Children’s Museum there. So after my last interview of the week on a Friday, I raced to our rendezvous as quickly as I could to surprise the little one and when I came into the room….. she was already asleep. Figures.

Again, racing home (or to the next interview city) and I was alone with a great sunset.

This one, though, was on my way home for a weekend. This shot doesn’t do it justice, because it was seriously one of the most gorgeous displays I’ve ever seen.

This year, I’m taking a course that explores the marriage of Art with Medicine and Wellness. One of the stipulations of the course is that we make time to visit museums, aquariums, etc to help boost our wellness. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the very, very few aquariums to house Whale Sharks, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit when I was in Atlanta. I really wish I would have had more time there!

One morning right before I left home for the majority of three weeks straight. Foggy yet golden, I couldn’t help but snap a shot to remind me of home.

Thank you notes are the bane of my existence. I was raised to express gratitude where it is due, so I’ve always been a fan of handwritten notes. I had no idea that I would be writing 4, 5, or 6 or more per program, though. Mentors have pressed upon me that for Pediatrics, thank you notes are pretty important, so I should make sure each one is personalized because all of them may wind up in my file, and if they are verbatim alike, it could be a mark against me so….. I spend a lot of time writing these things.

In one city, I came into town a bit early to catch up with an old friend from college at a local coffee shop before dinner with the residents. I wanted the chance to walk the city to get a good feel for it, and as I made my way to the coffee shot, I happened to notice the sky. This shot doesn’t really capture the cotton-candy sky, but I still liked the way it turned out anyway.

I left one program just in time to sit at a coffee shop in a different city for an hour or two before meeting the residents of another program for dinner, so I took that time to compose more thank you notes.

Niagara Falls at dusk! 🙂

Probably one of my favorite shots. It doesn’t quite look real, and this is #nofilter.

There was one interview that was really, really far away. Luckily, the Handsome could go with me and we made the executive decision to take the Ladybug with us and stop over at the halfway point, Niagara Falls. She LOVED it, and I am so glad that we weren’t deterred from bringing her with us. The first thing she said was “Whoa!” which was quickly followed by, “Mommy! BIG WATER!” All three of us marked off a couple new states and this little one got to add a new country to her passport as well!

I never knew the northeast was so pretty, even in late autumn! One thing I didn’t get to take a photo of: while driving through the mountains I saw where a semi took out the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen. So sad!

On the very first morning where I was supposed to be traveling to an interview, I went out to our deck for some meditation before beginning the long drive. It was so peaceful until the small flock of geese came by to interrupt me. Not a bad way to start out an interview season, I think.

I am almost done with my interview season. Some of the advice I got from last year’s graduating class were to wrap up the interview season before Christmas break, but that didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on a ton already, but I still have 5 more in January, and I am really excited for those programs. I’ve been keeping a running “rank list” and my top 5 are very clear in my mind already, programs that I loved to pieces. I’m hoping a few of my last interviews also make it into that category.

Kindness is Free

At the end of every interview day, I leave with a gift. Programs are happy to make sure we leave with a token from them, and so far I’ve been gifted with many things, such as tumblers, badge holders, a mountain of pens, and even a blanket. At one such interview awhile back, part of the part my gift included a beverage and snacks. I didn’t think I’d get much use out of that goody bag.

It wasn’t long until I was proven wrong. A few blocks from the hospital, at a stoplight, was an elderly gentleman with a cane holding a sign. I’m glad my goody bag helped someone who needed it far more than I did.

You may think you have nothing to give. But everyone can give, with what they have right now, where they are right now.